In competitive environments of uncertainty advice seems to insulate individuals from failure, and with an aversion to stumble the appeal of advice is necessarily augmented. At any stage of life there is always something one ought to do: settling complex relationships, deciding on a university or course of study, manoeuvring through the workplace… Held up as role models (or perhaps templates for “success”) seniors in my high school often returned to impart wisdom to us, their bright-eyed juniors, and now at sharing sessions in the universities the invited alumni would wax lyrical about their list of achievements and strategies for “success”.
And even if this advice – which usually stems from personal experiences – is dispensed with the best of intentions, harm can be caused when there are expectations of blind emulation or adherence. In other words this happens when advice is construed as a to-do list for someone to “make it”, which is a silly thing to do because contexts change, and more importantly with our diverse characteristics we are predisposed to react to circumstances differently too. Yet these should-dos or must-dos for anything and everything are everywhere.
I should know. For a long time in junior college I trudged along these predetermined pathways which promised so much pragmatically, pigeonholing myself for petty gains. Nowadays I view advice with scepticism, and have nothing substantial to offer either.
“Take it or leave it” appears to be the obvious response, though doing the latter is hard if one is inundated by advice echoing the same messages. People are eager to articulate opinions. Learning to trust one’s ambitions is thus hard, and learning to forge a new path amidst such pressure is even harder. The best mentors I have had may share about their endeavours or pathways to certain accomplishments, but they are aware that experiences are unique to the individual. They listen and guide, helping their mentees make the best of their potential and pathways, instead of providing generalised roadmaps which could lead nowhere.
Uncertainty still unsettles, failure still stings, and while it may not be as acute my fear of it persists. I cannot and should not say for sure whether my present journey of experimentation – of exploring commitments for the future – has paid dividends, but it has made my life fuller, and for that I am grateful.